New Delhi: The photo-op at HD Kumaraswamy’s swearing in ceremony in Bengaluru was just the beginning of the bonhomie among the titans of India’s opposition parties. It has now translated into an actual battle plan.
According to sources, out of the 543 Lok Sabha seats that will be up for grabs in 2019, the opposition parties have identified 400 where it wants to pin the BJP down in a one-on-one contest.
NCP leader Majid Memon confirmed the plan. He told News18 that this was in the works much before the Karnataka results. “Almost all non-BJP parties – from Kashmir to Tamil Nadu, from Abdullah to Stalin – have volunteered to come together burying their internal differences,” Memon said.
A Congress source privy to the discussion said that the plan has been formulated because it is clear that the concept of ‘one size fits all’ won’t work and that it needs to be state specific.
The biggest success story for this plan so far has been the coming together of the Mayawati’s BSP and Akhilesh Yadav’s SP. In the three Lok Sabha bypolls in Uttar Pradesh since March, the parties backed a joint candidate and emerged victorious in all three.
A Samajwadi Party leader explained how they are planning to have alliances in some places, but not in others. “Sometimes an alliance is beneficial, like in Kairana, and sometimes, it is harmful, like in Phulpur,” he said.
The SP leader said it was a blessing in disguise that the Congress did not join the alliance in eastern Uttar Pradesh because of its image as a ‘Brahmin party’. He said it was not helpful that the Congress’ Phulpur candidate, Manish Mishra, was a Brahmin as well.
In the bypolls, the Congress party was spurned by the SP and had to go it alone. While the SP backed by the BSP managed to defeat the BJP easily in Phulpur, giving proof that a united opposition can work, the Congress was left in a distant third place, further eroding its bargaining power in the state.
United colours of the opposition versus the BJP. (Illustration by Mir Suhail/News18)
After the bypoll result, it was West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee who first came up with the idea of implementing the one-on-one fight concept across the country.
In March this year, soon after the results, Banerjee had travelled to Delhi. She proposed a template on how the opposition should unite to take on BJP in 2019. The TMC leader had made it clear that the Congress should back regional parties in states where they are strong.
“The political party which is strong in a particular state should be allowed to work there. If in Uttar Pradesh, the Mayawati-Akhilesh Yadav combine is strong, they should work together… We should help them,” Mamata had said after her series of meetings with different party leaders in Parliament.